Getting Closer | Interview: Gris Grimly
citizen-la-cover-gris-grimlyMarianne Williams | Citizen LA

I get the call to write a piece about Gris Grimly. First thought: research. My sleuthing online gave me some visuals to put with his name, but I still had no real sense of who Gris Grimly is as a person. What I find states that he hails from an “unnamed town” in the midwest, that he does not give out his real name, nor does he reveal where he went to school.

Intriguing.

What I get from Gris Grimly is that he is very dedicated to his work, and quite honestly, that is pretty much where our conversation focused. While I admit that a part of me was so taken with his need for secrecy, I was internally compelled to push in that arena. But on the other hand, I greatly respect a person’s request for privacy. Result: I did not push.

But it’s in the back of my mind the whole time.

Meanwhile our conversation was full and he was more than willing to answer my questions, centering mainly on his work. What he likes most about his work is that he gets to produce art that is about monsters and horror. I asked if it was the art or the subject matter that was the driving force there.

Subject matter.

In fact, Gris surrounds himself with memorabilia of horror films, it makes him happy.

At about five years old, Grimly switched over from drawing animals to monsters and horror and he’s been there ever since. He has even made a film that situates itself within and without of the genre.

Within and without.

Huh?

Cannibal Flesh Riot is a 30 minute short that Grimly shot in 2005. The film was released in theaters in 2006 and then to a limited edition DVD in 2007. Apparently the film refuses a standard categorization. It is it’s own genre.

Within and without.

It is a comedy tale of two ghouls looking for food in a graveyard. It is not a horror film, rather, it is a character driven story. But with its look of an old 1950s B horror film, it will often attract horror fans. Who, Gris tells me are often disappointed with the movie.

From what he tells me about the film, it reminds me of a typical French film, where the conversation between two characters drives the story. Different from the big American blockbusters of today which have a more formulaic approach, his film actually reminded me of a film I saw in France. I tell Gris about the experience. I have no idea why I meandered into this conversation with Gris Grimly, but I did.

But then again, there’s sill that lingering question in the back of my mind.

Maybe what I was doing was trying to establish some rapport with him, maybe I still wanted to have more access to that which he had previously marked with a big “Do Not Disturb” sign. Maybe I wanted to get a little more personal with Gris. “I show you mine, you show me yours” kinda thing.

Didn’t work.

So, I got back to asking him about his work. He is currently working on a sequel to his 2003 Tales of Death and Dementia, illustrated works of Edgar Allen Poe. In this current sequel, he is doing 140 illustrations. I am blown away. The typical children’s picture book has a maximum of 32 illustrated pages, and this can often take an illustrator a year or more to complete. One hundred and forty illustrated pages. Wow.

The conversation then meanders to the subject of fine art and illustration. Gris has two separate sections on his website portfolio. Looking at the two, I find it hard to distinguish the criteria upon which he makes his distinction. According to Grimly, his fine art work is done more in mixed media, and focuses more on political or social ideas, while his illustration work paints a picture and is narrative alone. I am not totally sure that I get it.

It’s the end of the conversation, I can’t hold back. So I ask, not where he is from, but why he doesn’t say. He says that it is not out of shame, he just wants to maintain a level of privacy.

That’s as close as I got.

Andee Eve Husney is an artist living and working in Atwater Village.

(Editor’s Note: Private? Mysterious? Tight-lipped? I had to meet this guy for myself. Luckily, a few days before going to print I was presented with an opportunity. Mr. Grimly was screening his film Cannibal Flesh Riot at the “Little Cave” Bar in Highland Park. Not only was it perfect for our “Drink of the Month”, but I was certain I’d catch him with a drink or two in his system willing to spill-the-beans. So, I enlisted the help of horror-fanatic D.W.Frydendall, hoping that their similar backgrounds would put Gris in a more vulnerable state. One screening and a few drinks later, Gris opens up, sharing unconscionable tales of horror and incredible acts of self-sacrifice. As for the details of our candid conversation, those are unfortunately not going to be printed. It’s a long story really, but let’s just say, I like my legs… both of them.)

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